Research is ongoing into whether tea—a popular beverage the world over—could be grown as an alternative crop by Florida citrus growers.

The latest citrus forecast was released recently, calling for 44.95 million boxes of citrus. That’s a drop of over 80 percent over the height of the season in 1997 to 1998 when 244 million boxes were harvested. Many Florida citrus growers are looking for an alternative crop or two to help bolster their operation and make ends meet. The latest alternative crop that is being researched is tea, according to a Vegetable and Specialty Crop News (VSCNews) article. See the details of the research below.

Tea as an Alternative Crop

The research into tea as an alternative crop is being done by James Orrock, a plant pathology graduate student at UF and a Fourth-generation citrus grower. “The citrus industry is having to go through some changes, so one of the key aspects of Florida agriculture right now is diversification. We believe that there are markets that can be diversified, and that’s where we think tea is an option,” he said in the article.

Tea is one of the most widely-consumed beverages world-wide, and there are many other products that utilize tea, but there is not much being grown in the U.S., meaning Florida growers could get in on the ground floor. However, it also makes for a higher start-up cost because it was hard to source plants.

Irrigation is another concern, but Orrock maintained that existing irrigation systems from citrus production could be used. “On the tea plants we have at our orange grove, we have a row of tea plants right next to our irrigation lines with extra-long emitters to reach a row even further away so that we didn’t have to put down an extra irrigation line,” Orrock said.

Harvesting the leaves is what Orrock identified as the main challenge. Irrigation and fertilization impact how often leaves can be harvested, which the article maintains is every two to three weeks.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.